Monday, 4 October 2010

Watch out for these social networking scams

Social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Bebo have changed the way we and our families keep in touch with friends and share information online. The problem is, scammers know exactly how we use these types of sites and are constantly developing malicious software and other swindles to take advantage.
While websites have a responsibility to keep users safe from scams, you can stay safe by learning to spot the most common scams before they spot you.

Dodgy Facebook applications
Facebook applications, or apps, such as movie quizzes and Scrabble games sound harmless enough, but remember that Facebook does not approve third-party apps. A recent app scam that went viral was the Facebook ‘Dislike’ button. Users were encouraged to install this tool but, by doing so, gave the rogue app permission to access their profile page and post spam messages. Victims were also asked to complete an online survey, which generated money for the scammers.
The best way to avoid falling victim to these scams is to give Facebook apps – or, at least, those developed by third-party websites – a wide berth.
You can also adjust your Facebook privacy settings to control which apps have access to your data and which of your friends can see information from apps, or simply turn off apps altogether.
And remember, this isn’t the only way Facebook can end up costing you money. Read Why Facebook means your bills will rise to find out more.
Spam messages
What would you do if you received a Facebook message or a tweet on Twitter from a friend claiming they had been robbed while abroad and needed money in order to get home? You know the sender, so you might be tempted to offer your help.
But before you do, try to contact your friend via email or telephone because the chances are their account has been hacked and someone is trying to extort money from their associates. If you aren’t able to contact your friend, then try replying to the original message with a personal question that only they know the answer to.
Read Stop spam and spot scams for more tips.
Fake links
The sharing nature of social networking websites means it’s fairly easy for scammers to dupe their victims into accessing malicious websites. To stop this happening, you need to be vigilant against links posted on your profile page or sent within an instant message, even if these appear to come from a friend.
Before you click on a link in your friend’s Facebook or Twitter status use a little bit of common sense. Is it likely your conservative work colleague will have posted a link entitled “OMG: funniest drunk car crash ever”? Young users are particularly susceptible to these scams so make sure you warn your children or grandchildren to be on their guard too.
Phishing emails
Hackers are increasingly using well-known social networking website brands in phishing emails to elicit personal information from you. The scam works like this: an email purporting to be from the site asking you to follow a link, which takes you to an official-looking log-on prompt. Enter your personal details, and this information is stored and used by the scammers to hijack your account.
One of the most common Twitter scams sends messages such as “Just saw this photo of you” or “See who’s been checking out your profile” to tempt users to follow a link to a website that either attempts to steal their log-on information or uploads malicious software on to their computers.
As with any phishing email scam, the best way to stay safe is to enter the website address manually so you can be sure the site is genuine.
Read Three scams to avoid! for more help on how to deal with phishing messages.
Promises of thousands of instant followers
Building up followers is the Holy Grail for many Twitter users. However, if you receive a message promising you thousands of instant followers then don’t be fooled.
This scam claims it can increase your followers by identifying Twitter users who automatically follow anyone who follows them. It sounds plausible, but this service comes at a cost. Some victims pay only to see the scammer vanish from the site, while others see their followers increase but are accused of trying to send spam themselves – an offence that could see them banned from the site.
Oversharing information online
Last month I changed my Facebook status to “Rebecca Atkinson is off on holiday for two weeks”. While this seemed harmless enough at the time, it was effectively an open advertisement to burglars that my flat would be empty for a fortnight. Although not technically a scam, oversharing on social websites makes life far too easy for crooks.
As well as thinking about your status updates before you click the “Share” button, remove personal information such as your home address, phone number and full birthday from your profile. Facebook allows you to decide who can see your profile – as long as there are spammers about, it’s probably a good idea that you play it as safe as possible.


Anonymous said...

I'd still like to know how someone took over my Facebook account and posted "OMG, this game is so addicting" about a hundred times. I put very little info in my profile, some of it fake (like birthday) and rarely even go to my page. I'm grateful to friends who emailed me to see if I posted that comment because it didn't seem like me. They were right, of course. I got all of it deleted and changed my password. I hope that helps. Thanks for writing this post. We all need this info and to be cautious with our accounts.

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